Passengers use smartphones at Mumbai Central railway station in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Cabinet Approves New Telecom Policy

The cabinet today approved the new telecom policy, now coined ‘National Digital Communications Policy 2018’, which aims to attract $100 billion in investments and create 40 lakh jobs in the sector by 2022.

The draft also promised to rationalise levies such as spectrum charges to rejuvenate debt-ridden telecom sector. The policy also envisages 50 Mbps of broadband connectivity to every citizen in five years.

According to the draft of the policy, NDCP will focus on increasing high-speed broadband penetration, with use of modern technologies like 5G and optical fiber across the country at affordable rates.

Telecom minister Manoj Sinha said things have very rapidly evolved in the telecom sector and hence new policy has been made to address emerging technology areas like 5G, Internet of Things and machine to machine communication.

The minister said the government wants to focus on socio-economic growth of the country with the help of the telecom sector instead of seeing it as source of revenue generation.

The NDCP proposes to adopt "Optimal Pricing of Spectrum" to ensure sustainable and affordable access to digital communications. High spectrum price and related charges have been the main concern of the telecom services segment, which is reeling under a debt of around Rs 7.8 lakh crore.

Some of the objectives of the NDCP 2018 include providing broadband access to all, creating 40 lakh new jobs, and increasing India's ranking in the global ICT Index to 50th spot.

"We also expect GDP contribution of telecom sector, which has been around 6 percent, to grow to 8 percent... and expect 100 billion dollar investment to come in," he said.

The global average of telecom sector contribution to GDP is 4.5 percent. The sector at present contributes around 6.5 percent to India's GDP.

The government expects to decide on most of the promises made under NDCP 2018 in a year, Sinha said.

"We will decide on most of the things in a year," Sinha said in response to a query on by when the government will be ready with a roadmap.

The last national telecom policy was issued in 2012.

“We have also changed the name of Telecom Commission to Digital Communication Commission. We will work inclusion of other ministry representatives into it,” Sinha said.

The minister said the policy has been formulated after it was felt that a "consumer-centric and application-driven policy" be brought in. The vision, Sinha said, is to have robust communication infrastructure and broadband for all.

The policy promises to promote domestic telecom products and equipment manufacturing with preference to indigenous manufacturers and encourage participation of technology startups in the sector.

Industry body COAI said the implementation of NDCP 2018 will have a positive, long-term impact on the sector. It also hoped that the DoT will closely monitor the timely implementation of this policy so that the industry can recuperate from the deepening financial stress.

"Thus, the most important and urgent requirement is to restore the financial health of the sector for which the Policy document envisages the reduction in levies and ease of doing business," COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews said.